Media event date: 
20 April 2020
Date published: 
21 April 2020
Media type: 
General public


Okay. We’re here in Dubbo today, in the RFDS hangar, to make a very important announcement. Regional Australia has done really well with the coronavirus pandemic. We've had minimal infection and those infections we've had, we have treated and I think we've maintained very good control.

But it's important that we are prepared should we have an outbreak in any of our regional or more remote communities. And so today, I'm announcing an extra $52 million in funding to the Royal Flying Doctor Service and to CareFlight to increase their capacity, not only for retrieval of unwell patients back into our area of higher care, but also to be able to transport medical professionals into a more remote area should an outbreak occur there. But also to increase their capacity to move consumables, personal protective equipment around Australia should that be needed.

And we have great capacity in our larger centres, and this association with the Royal Flying Doctor Service will enhance that.

The Royal Flying Doctor Service is an iconic organisation that has enormous respect right throughout regional Australia, and it's only appropriate that at a time of need like this that the Australian Government would go to their longtime partner - the Royal Flying Doctor Service - to ask them to step up and increase their capacity so that it will give an area of comfort and assurance to the people in the more remote parts of Australia that should an outbreak occur in their communities, there is assets available to help them at their time of need.

I will hand over now to Frank Quinlan, the National CEO of the Royal Flying Doctor Service, to say a few words.

FRANK QUINLAN: Thank you Minister. Some seven million Australians live in rural and remote Australia – half a million of them in very remote parts of Australia. Since the beginning of this crisis the Royal Flying Doctor Service has evacuated 170 patients, either with COVID or suspected of COVID, to a safer location.

And since the beginning of this crisis, Minister Coulton, you and the Australian Government have reached out to the Royal Flying Doctor Service to better understand the needs of those rural and remote Australians. The funding announcement that you're making today really does enable the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia to offer that continued guarantee to rural and remote Australians that we know experience poorer health outcomes and have poorer access to medical care, that we can be there in their time of need.

It was 90 years ago the Reverend John Flynn established what he called a mantle of safety for Australians living in rural and remote parts of Australia, and the funding that you've announced today, Minister, really goes a long way to ensuring that that mantle of safety can be offered to rural and remote Australians during this COVID-19 crisis.

We're very grateful from the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia, but more importantly, Australians living in rural and remote parts of Australia can be very grateful and very confident that we will be there should they need us.

I might ask Mr Greg Sam, who's the CEO of the southeast section of the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia, who is our local host here today at the Dubbo hangar, to respond.

GREG SAM: Good morning. I’m Greg Sam, the Chief Executive Officer of the Royal Flying Doctor Service southeastern section.

Minister, thank you and welcome to Dubbo base. Can I first begin by saying that the Royal Flying Doctor Service across Australia has been able to maintain all our services through the COVID crisis through the past few months.

And with today's announcement of the additional resources available to our services, we can now assure that level of service will continue but also preparations for the expected increase in activity associated with the impact of COVID virus in rural and remote areas across the country.

It's very important in understanding the way we deliver our care requires a particular type of preparation. Behind me you'll see an aircraft and the way that we need to be able to look after our staff, in particular our pilots, our nurses, our doctors and all our operational staff across the country, requires the same level of protection and safety that is applied to hospitals right across the country.

So this money, Minister, will very much help us offer that level of assurance to our staff and particularly to the patients that we are carrying. As Frank mentioned earlier, the service is very active in transporting both suspected and confirmed cases of COVID infection from and to rural areas, and between essential areas of care.

So, the other key element of this, finally, enables us to continue to be prepared through the future, which is expected to run into many weeks and possibly months.

So on behalf of the Royal Flying Doctor Service, again, our acknowledgement and appreciation to Minister Coulton and the Australian Government. Thank you.